Milan Luthria’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbai is already beginning to turn heads in the industry with the feeling that this could be a really big one. Shooting starts in May and the script is said to be inspired by Sergio Leone’s classic Once Upon a Time in America, which starred the almost perfect cast of Robert de Niro, James Woods, Joe Pesci, Elizabeth McGovern and a remarkable Tuesday Weld. The 1975 hit Deewar with Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor will also be an influence.
Milan’s movie centres on the growth of the underworld in Mumbai in the 1970s and 1980s and is said to be based on the life story of gangster Haji Mastan. The cast looks equally gripping with Ajay Devgan in the lead role — Ajay being one of those actors who can be both charming and dark at the same time. Opposite him as his love interest, the beautiful actress Madhubala, will be Kangana Ranaut, who is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting of Bollywood actresses. “Kangana’s selection is a good thing as although Ajay Devgan and Emraan Hashmi were on board, the producers couldn’t shoot for a long time because Luthria was unable to select an actress,” said a source, “Only recently did Luthria settle on Kangana.” Prachi Desai is also expected to make an impact.
Like the American movie, the plot is said to encompass the full range of leading figures in the Mumbai underworld at that time including possibly Dawood Ibrahim, Abu Salem, Chhota Rajan, Chhota Shakeel and Arun Gawli — whilst at the same time exploring the social and economic factors that create such people and drives them to follow the routes in life that they do. Producer Suniel Shetty says, “Initially we wanted to focus on one aspect of crime and smuggling in the 1980s. Now we’re taking into account the whole era and ethos leading up to terrorism and international terrorism in current times.” Dawood Ibrahim, of course, has been linked to the recent Mumbai and Lahore attacks.